Saints Nation: Defensive and Special Teams Player Grades vs. Cowboys

If you go looking at the stat sheet you may not grasp how good the Saints' defense was in this game. They didn't really top the run (89 yards at 5.6 per carry), they didn't really get sacks (3 but a couple were in garbage time) and they didn't get turnovers. The tackle numbers weren't very high either, so you'd look at that and be surprised they held the Cowboys to just 17 points. But the key stats that jump out are that they held Tony Romo to 10 of 24 passing, or 41.7% completions and the Cowboys were 0-9 (!!!) on 3rd down. The Saints held the Cowboys to 193 total yards by not allowing them to move the chains and playing best on 3rd down which got them off the field consistently all night long. On to the grades!

Cameron Jordan: B- for the game (2.93 for the season) He had just 1 tackle but when the Saints rushed for he was always the guy getting the initial pressure and forcing Tony Romo to escape the pocket. He was robbed of a sack when he hit Romo on an intentional grounding play. He could have played the run better.

Akiem Hicks: C+ (2.70) His lone tackle was impressive as he moved from sideline to sideline laterally to chase down DeMarco Murray, impressively showcasing his speed for his size. Other than that he was disappointing rushing the passer.

Brodrick Bunkley: B (2.67) He had 2 tackles, including one for a loss, and was physical in the trenches. He did get pushed around a little bit and didn't eat space as well on the interior as I'd like all the time, but most of DeMarco Murray's big runs came off tackle. It's great to have him back.

John Jenkins: C (2.67) He's definitely playing a good deal less with Bunkley back in the mix, instead really just coming in as a situational rotation run defender. He had one tackle and made little impact.

Tom Johnson: B (2.28) His lone stat was a sack that was great and I'm sure that felt awesome for him. He hasn't been great this season so his confidence needed that.

Glenn Foster: B+ (2.43) The rookie finally showed some of the burst that helped him land a roster spot in preseason. He had a sack in this game and also batted down a wide receiver bubble screen by showing terrific play recognition. Nice to see him making plays out there.

Parys Haralson: C+ (2.56) He's a run stopping specialist but got swallowed on a couple running plays particularly down on the goal line that allowed Murray to get a yardage and eventually a touchdown. He did have a sack on a blitz, though.

Curtis Lofton: C- (2.89) Whatever his injury was it clearly limited his effectiveness in this game. He missed numerous tackles on Murray and was largely to blame for the success of the Cowboys' running game. He was beat in coverage and fortunate a couple of times that the Cowboys couldn't catch (and that Romo was innacurate). He had 4 tackles.

Junior Galette: C- (2.78) I actually thought he was one of the Saints' worst defenders on the day. He was knocked on his behind often and completely neutralized rushing the passer. The Cowboys attacked him in the run game successfully. Definitely not his day. He had 1 tackle.

Will Herring: B- (2.73) He boosts his grade a bit on special teams by having a nice day in coverage with 2 tackles. On defense, though, he was not impressive. I didn't like his run defense in particular. He was decent in coverage and finished the day with 5 tackles.

Ramon Humber: A- (2.61)  He was tied for the team lead with 5 tackles, including two for a loss. He looked very physical and fast to the football. I was thoroughly impressed with how he looked in this game. He reminded me ofJo-Lonn Dunbar in his prime minus the poor coverage. Humber may have a future as a starter in this league.

Keyunta Dawson: B (2.17) He had just one tackle but looked good out there, particularly blitzing. He caused some heavy pressure late and was the initial pressure on Romo which allowed him to walk straight into Haralson for the sack.

Keenan Lewis: A- (2.96) If it wasn't for that juggling reception by Dez Bryant for 44 yards, which would be his lone catch, Lewis would have played the perfect game. Sure he had over the top safety help and double teams to lighten his load at times… but Lewis was very physical at the line of scrimmage with Bryant and completely took him out of the game with excellent coverage. Bryant never had a chance. Lewis' coverage was so good, in fact, that Bryant gave up on his routes numerous times and just went through the motions. A dominant game by a fantastic free agent pickup – that turned out to be the key to the whole defensive gameplan. Stop Bryant, stop the Cowboys' passing attack. He had 1 tackle because the ball never came his way. I did give the defensive player of the game to Humber over him, though, because Humber didn't have double team help.

Jabari Greer: B (2.41) Other than getting beat badly on a 21 yard touchdown pass to Terrence Williams, Greer was excellent too in this game. He had two pass breakups on third down in particular to get the Saints off the field. He also would have had a gimme pick 6 jumping a route but he dropped a very catchable ball. He had 2 tackles and 3 pass breakups. Give him credit for helping against the run, too. Too bad for the TD pass that hurts his grade, otherwise he played extremely well.

Corey White: B+ (2.59) White was excellent in this game in coverage and quite physical. His best play came on 3rd and 2 when he was beat on a slant route by Cole Beasley but managed to recover and come up with a diving pass breakup, timed perfectly, to force a Cowboys punt. Terrific skill and effort there. He had two pass breakups.

Chris Carr: B- (2.33) He did a great job pushing DeMarco Murray out of bounds as he was catching the ball on a 3rd and 6 to force a field goal attempt. He also had a really nice tackle on Jason Witten behind the line of scrimmage. He was fortunate on a couple misses and drops but his coverage was decent. He had two tackles, but also had a penalty on special teams blocking a guy out of bounds.

Kenny Vaccaro: C (2.52) He had 3 tackles and a defended pass. He came up with a nice hit on Jason Witten as he was juggling the ball to force an incompletion. He also had a stupid illegal use of the hands penalty to gift wrap a first down for the Cowboys. He would leave the game with an apparent concussion. That is his second in three weeks I believe, which has to be a concern.

Rafael Bush: B+ (2.59) He had one tackle at the second level on Murray, limiting what would have otherwise been a big run. It was in coverage that he made a difference, giving Keenan Lewis help both around the line of scrimmage and over the top depending on the coverage.

Isa Abdul-Quddus: C+(2.46) A quiet game for IAQ who just played the back end and kept everything in front of him. He had no stats but was pretty good in coverage.


Garrett Hartley: D- (2.67) He made all 7 of his extra points but just pushed barely wide right his lone field goal attempt from 37 yards out. At this point from kick to kick I have no idea what to expect from him. But the confidence has to be low right now as he's missed 4 of his last 6. These misses have all been very makeable distances too. Kicker is starting to become a pretty major concern.

Thomas Morstead: B- (3.48) He was only 3 for 7 on kickoffs for touchbacks, which is less than he normally gets.Dwayne Harris is a very dangerous return man so I would have preferred to see him neutralize him better. On his lone punt he could've pinned it inside the 10 but got unlucky with some backspin that bounced it back to the 16 for a 33 yard punt. It was still inside the 20 though.

Kevin Reddick: C+ (2.80) He had two tackles in coverage but hit Harris very late and out of bounds on a kickoff return. He was really fortunate to not get flagged for a personal foul there because he deserved it, as that was pretty stupid. Harris would shaken up on the play and at first it looked really serious but fortunately he returned.


Defensive Player of the Game: Ramon Humber

Special Teams Player of the Game: Will Herring

Andrew Juge

About Andrew Juge

I like the Saints. A lot.

Saints Nation: Defensive and Special Teams Player Grades vs. Cowboys

Below are the grades for the defensive and special teams players. The letter grade represents the player’s performance in the game, and the GPA is the player’s cumulative performance of the season.

Will Smith: A- (2.81) Smith put constant pressure on Romo and continuously beat Flozell Adams, especially on passing downs. Unfortunately, he often let Tony Romo out of his grasp because of the Dallas QB’s escapability. He ended the game with 4 tackles, 2 sacks, another tackle for a loss and he must have put Romo on the ground at least 4 times. He drew a 15 yard facemask penalty at one point as Adams did everything he could to stop him. I saw Smith victimized by holds that went unflagged several times. The effort and performance was there, the only negative was he over pursued on some plays. 

Charles Grant: B- (2.02) Grant bounced back in this game, and while he wasn’t flashy or great, it was a much better performance than what we’ve seen from him the last few weeks. He did a decent job against the run, and he also put a lot of pressure on Romo. He didn’t get the stats to back it up, finishing with just 2 tackles, but he caused disruption consistently and was the main party responsible for one of Smith’s sacks. He put great pressure on Romo on that play, not biting on the play action, hit the quarterback to slow him down, and both Ayodele and Smith came up to clean up the play and tackle Romo. That sack was all Grant, but somehow Will Smith got full credit for it. Remi Ayodele should have at the very least inherited half of that sack statistically, but Grant deserves props for making that play happen. I guess the coaches lit a fire under his ass. Let’s see if he builds on this or goes back into his shell of gluttony.

Bobby McCray: C+ (2.00) McCray compiled no stats, but did a good job of applying pressure from the edge when he was in. Still, an overwhelmingly disappointing season from the former Florida Gator who was so promising a year ago.

Anthony Hargrove: D (2.21) Hargrove was pushed around like a rag doll up the middle, and contributed nothing against the run. Suprisingly he wasn’t much help rushing the passer, either. I think he should be moved back to defensive end. He finished with no tackles.

Remi Ayodele: B+ (2.39) Another impressive performance by Ayodele. Not only did he push the pile back and show good technique, he actually showed an impressive motor and some hustle. I’ve been on him all season for not finishing plays, so I was literally shocked at one point to see him running down Jason Witten downfield. He deserved at least half a sack on the play I mentioned above. He finished with 4 tackles, and I’m now a believer he’s a key component to our success in the playoffs based on the way he’s been playing the last few weeks.

Scott Fujita: B+ (2.88) Fujita made some mistakes, mostly in coverage. At one point he over pursued on a blitz allowing the tailback to get out wide for a flare out. Fujita tried to recover on that play and chase Marion Barber down, but he didn’t have the speed. That said, Fujita was all over the field making tackles, and he had a nice aggressive mean streak. It was just really encouraging to just see him on the field about a week after surgery. Add to that the fact that he actually played extremely well, and we might be rounding into shape with our linebacking core. He finished with 10 tackles and used solid technique.

Scott Shanle: B- (2.60) Shanle was overshadowed by the play of Fujita and Vilma, who were both excellent, but Shanle was pretty good in his own right. He was pushed around on a few running plays, but he held his ground ok and made not egregious mistakes. He finished with 6 tackles.

Jonathan Vilma: A- (3.03) Vilma was all over the field and showed impressive speed running sideline to sideline. It seemed like Vilma was in on almost every single play making a tackle. I’d give him a higher grade, but he blew a chance to tackle Marion Barber short of the end zone on a touchdown run, and he missed a coverage assignment on Witten. Just being nit-picky, though, because he had 14 tackles, a sack, and was playing at an extremely high level. After those first two drives, the defense as a whole was overall pretty good. It’s just too bad they had to get the team in such an early hole/deficit early.

Tracy Porter: B+ (3.13) Gay left the game early with an injury, and Porter was thrown into the fire. He’s making his way back from the knee injury, so he was supposed to only see limited reps, but he ended up playing starter minutes. He finished with 6 tackles and 2 pass deflections. He also did a good job of pushing Miles Austin out of the end zone on what would have been a touchdown pass. Porter was the only player in the backfield making plays. It made me realize just how much of a difference it makes in this defense to have good corners. Greer and Porter are just much superior to the guys behind them. It’s honestly not even close. I think we already knew that, but seeing him back strongly confirmed it. Despite not being used to game speed and playing on a healing knee, he was much better than anyone else in the back four. He shut down Roy Williams and came up with some big breakups on third down.

Malcolm Jenkins: D+ (2.48) Jenkins was burned badly by Miles Austin on the first touchdown of the game, once again biting on a double move. Granted it was a picture perfect throw by Romo, but Jenkins just doesn’t have the catch up speed to hang with speed demons like Austin if he makes a mistake in coverage. He was targeted by Romo often, and more times than not he was beaten. The guy is just not NFL ready, in my opinion, on a consistent basis. When you’re 13-1 fighting for homefield advantage and getting ready for the playoffs, my opinion right now is that Jenkins is a liability as a starting corner. I’m not saying he shouldn’t play, I’m saying he’s not good enough to play the role he’s currently playing. We better pray Jabari Greer makes it back healthy by then. I’m not sure the Saints currently have a better option, either. Anyway, Jenkins did at least show some toughness and tackling ability. He had 7 tackles, a lot due to how much he was picked on.

Roman Harper: C (2.81) Like last week, when the Cowboys needed a play on third down, just find who Roman Harper is covering and go there. His coverage this time was mediocre, which is better than what we’ve been used to recently. He had 6 tackles, but like Jenkins a lot of those came from being targeted. He made a lot of plays around the line of scrimmage against the run, but he also whiffed on a handful of others. On one blitz he completely missed Romo to allow a third down conversion. He was never great, and he was up and down the whole game.

Darren Sharper: C (2.82) Like Harper, Sharper was very active and put some nice hits on players, but ultimately his speed was a real liability out there. Once when the Saints sent a blitz, his attempt at running with Miles Austin resembled me running after a leopard. He had 10 tackles and made some nice plays in the box, but Sharper can be exposed by a good quarterback and a speedy receiver because he just doesn’t have the wheels anymore. The instincts are still there, but he’s just not making the plays like he was earlier in the year.

DeMario Pressley: C (2.60) He finished with 1 tackle in limited action. He was fine, not much to say.

Mike McKenzie: D+ (2.00) McKenzie played less against the Cowboys than previous weeks, and that was a good thing. Still he managed to allow a pass to Miles Austin to go for a 1st down at the most crucial of times late in the game on a 3rd down play. Come to think of it, why was McKenzie even on Austin? His coverage was awful on that play, and his weak dive tackle attempt was embarrassing. Who was that guy playing against the Patriots anyway? He finished with 2 tackles, and actually did a decent job on a couple of plays in coverage, but never showed up when the Saints needed him most.

Thomas Morstead: B- (3.02) Morstead’s depth on kickoffs were shorter than usual, allowing Felix Jones to get some looks that he made the Saints pay for. He also crushed one punt, but outkicked his coverage and allowed a 28 yard punt return to Patrick Crayton. You can’t blame that all on Morstead because the coverage units were mostly at fault, but he’s good enough that he could have taken both players out of the game and he didn’t. He had one punt that also went for a touchback, but again his coverage unit had a shot to pin it inside the 5 and failed. He did have an impressive average on four punts, though, with 50.3 yards per punt, but his net average was only 36.5. It’s not all on him, but the bottom line is the Saints did a poor job in the kicking game setting up favorable field position.

Courtney Roby: B (2.92) The Cowboys took him almost completely out of the game by either kicking the ball so deep that Roby had no chance to take it out, or kicking it short to Lynell Hamilton. The one look he did get he took 67 yards to give the Superdome some life. Unfortunately the Saints couldn’t do anything with the field position Roby gave them. He also had a tackle as a gunner, but he was also called for an illegal block in the back that negated a decent punt return by Bush.

Garrett Hartley: B+ (3.11) Hartley hit both extra points (thankfully down the middle) and made a 34 yard field goal. Not much duty, but he made the most of his opportunities.

My Defensive Player of the Game: Jonathan Vilma
My Special Teams Player of the Game: Courtney Roby

Andrew Juge

About Andrew Juge

I like the Saints. A lot.